Soft Target Hardening: Protecting People from Attack, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Soft Target Hardening

Protecting People from Attack, 1st Edition

By Jennifer Hesterman

CRC Press

321 pages | 28 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9781482244212
pub: 2014-12-18
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780429256523
pub: 2014-12-18
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Winner of ASIS International’s 2015 Security Book of the Year Award

Terrorist attacks occur daily and are increasingly being aimed at civilian populations around the world. Battlefield lines have been redrawn to include churches, schools, hospitals, and malls. This breach of moral boundary is shocking and invokes fear—two primary goals of terrorism.

Although there is an increase in soft target activity—or attacks on places of worship, study, and leisure—there is hesitation to explore such susceptibility in the United States. Soft Target Hardening: Protecting People from Attack starts the national dialogue by providing case studies, best practices, and methodologies for identifying soft target vulnerabilities and reducing risk in the United States. Offering deterrence and mitigation techniques from more than 275 sources, this comprehensive book:

  • Explores U.S. cultural nuances contributing to the country turning a psychological blind eye toward soft target threats
  • Assesses the attractiveness of soft target threats presented by foreign and domestic terror groups and drug trafficking organizations
  • Analyzes the unique vulnerabilities of churches, schools, hospitals, malls, sporting and recreational events, and other soft targets
  • Gives an overview of soft target hardening tactics from global hotspots, including first-person accounts and photographs
  • Introduces the concept of effects-based hardening, derived from the military model of effects-based operations
  • Discusses emerging soft target challenges such as insider threats, kidnapping, and use of human shields
  • Evaluates the likelihood of the use of weapons of mass destruction against civilian-centric venues

Soft Target Hardening: Protecting People from Attack is a must-read for those who secure, own, and operate soft target facilities, and for citizens who want to protect themselves and their families from attack.


"In this unique book, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Jennifer Hesterman brings her 30 years of military experience to explain the threats and vulnerabilities inherent in soft targets so those responsible for their security can reduce the risks. After defining the problem, Hesterman provides an overview of the many and varied groups that have attacked or might want to attack soft targets. … The in-depth research and wide-ranging sources used by Hesterman are impressive. At the end of each chapter is a listing of books, reports, and websites for the reader who would like to study the source material in detail. … As the first book focused on this subject, Soft Target Hardening has started an important dialogue and will be a thought-provoking resource for security professionals."

—Jack Plaxe, in Security Management

"One fundamental problem in protecting free and open societies from terrorism is that they have a virtually unlimited number of 'soft targets,' vital yet traditionally poorly protected institutions like churches, shopping malls, amusement parks, and restaurants. As we increasingly see ghastly attacks against venues that we would like to be 'off limits,' it is vital to consider our vulnerabilities, and what steps we should take to protect ourselves. Dr. Hesterman's volume, an in-depth examination of the problem of soft targets, makes a vital contribution to a discussion that must continue."

—Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies; and Chief Executive Officer, Valens Global

Table of Contents




The Author

Soft Targets


The Difference in Threat, Vulnerability, and Risk


The Psychology of Soft Targeting and Our Unique Vulnerability


What Is Terrorism?

Who Becomes a Terrorist?

Terrorist Motivations

Terrorist Behavior

Terrorism’s Effectiveness

Terrorism’s Target

Soft Target Violence: A Collective Twenty-First Century Black Swan

The Internet as a Tool

Soft Targeting Motivations

Our Unique Vulnerability

What Do We Most Fear?

How Should We Respond?


International Terror Groups: Propensity and Ability to Mount Soft Target Attacks


Modern Terrorism’s Roots

AQ and Affiliates

The Ideology

Rise of bin Laden and al-Qaeda

Emergent al-Qaeda



Other AQ Splinter Groups

Bin Laden Speaks

AQ’s New Goals and Tactics


Methodology and Objectives

Primary Area of Operations

Tactical Proficiency

Active and Deadly

Operations in the Western Hemisphere

South America


At the Mexican Border

United States


Hamas in the Western Hemisphere

Summary of Threat


Domestic Terrorism and the Homegrown Threat


History of Domestic Terrorism in the United States

The Twenty-First Century and the Rising Tide of Domestic Extremism

Right-Wing Extremism


Sovereign Citizens

Left Wing


Anarchism and the Military

Single-Issue or Special-Interest Terrorism

The Earth Liberation Front

Animal Liberation Front

Homegrown Terror

Rehabilitation and the Domestic Terrorist

Jihadist Defined


Counter-Radicalization Efforts

Inside the Saudi Program

Possible Solutions in the United States

The Lone Wolf

Mexican Cartels Cross the Border

Ideology: Money

Tactic: Brutal Violence Against Soft Targets

Goals: Money, Power, Control

Major DTOs Impacting the United States

Special Concern: Los Zetas

Zetas Tactics

Increasing Reach in the United States

Nexus with Gangs

Summary of Domestic Terrorist Threats against Soft Targets


Soft Target Threat Assessment: Schools, Churches, and Hospitals


Vulnerability in the United States

Small Cities and Rural Areas in the Crosshairs

How Bad Actors Choose Targets

The Soft Targets


K–12 in the Crosshairs

K–12 Vulnerability

Colleges: Campus Culture and Vulnerability

Campuses Already Under Attack

Escalating Number of Attacks on College Campuses

Bad Blood: Intelligence, Law Enforcement, and Higher Education


The Proliferation of Church Attacks

US Churches as Targets


Nefarious Use of Ambulances


Soft Target Threat Assessment: Malls, Sporting Events, and Recreational Venues


Shopping Malls

Other Significant Mall Attacks

Terrorist Threats Against US Malls

Vulnerable Open Air Marketplaces

Sports Venues

Stadiums and Arenas in the Crosshairs

Performing Arts and Recreation Venues

Tourist Sites: A Vulnerable Target


Hardening Tactics at Global Hotspots


Soft Target Hardening in the Middle East

Life in a Compound

Schools and Christian Churches

Hotel Security

The Westerner as a Target

State Department Engagement

United Nations and Soft Targets


Soft Target Hardening 101


Steady-State and Crisis Leadership


Insider Threat: A Fifth Column

Good Hiring Practices—First Line of Defense

Background Checks

Kidnapping and the Use of Human Shields in Terrorist Operations

Surrounded by Crises

First Response and the Threat of Secondary Attacks

Weapons of Mass Destruction

In the SIRA Method

Suicide Terrorism

Face of Rage


Deterring and Mitigating Attack


Effects-Based Hardening (EBH)

Physical Security

Parking Lots

Prepositioned Vehicle

Traffic Duty




Visitor Access and Badges

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)

Public Address System

Ventilation System

Dining Halls

Emergency Preparations

Hold Room

Emergency Response Team and the Command Center

Bomb Threat

Medical Program

Shelter in Place

Elementary Schools in Focus

Hardening the College Campus

Building Relationships

Students and Staff as Force Multipliers

Exercising Due Diligence




Sports and Recreation Venues

Red Teaming Soft Targets



Fifteen Takeaways about Soft Target Hardening



Appendix A: List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations

Appendix B: NIMS, the ICS and FEMA Courses

Appendix C: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Terrorism Vulnerability Self-Assessment Checklist

Appendix D: Bomb Threat Checklist

Appendix E: National Counterterrorism Center Bomb Threat Standoff Charts

Appendix F: Planning and Emergency Smartphone Applications

Appendix G: Primary and Secondary School Threat Assessment and Response Checklist


About the Author

Dr. Jennifer L. Hesterman, US Air Force (Retired), was commissioned in 1986 as a graduate of Air Force ROTC at Penn State University. During her military career, she served in three Pentagon tours and commanded multiple times in the field. A cleared professional, she is an advisor for Watermark Risk Management International, a senior analyst for the MASY Group, on the Advisory Board for the Government Security Conference, and a member of the ASIS Crime and Loss Prevention Council. Dr. Hesterman holds a doctoral degree from Benedictine University and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University and Air University.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
COMPUTERS / Security / General
LAW / Forensic Science
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Terrorism